The Company Men
Directed by John Wells. Starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Rosemarie DeWitt, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson, Kevin Costner, Eammon Walker. (2011, R, 104 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 4, 2011
This drama is about what happens to company men after they part company with the company – when, to put it less charitably, they get pink-slipped. Family man Bobby Walker (Affleck) gets 12 weeks' pay for his 12 years of service at GTX, a Boston-based transportation company that started as a small shipbuilding factory founded by two college roommates and grew into a global corporation. Nelson and Jones play the graying, embattled friends and founders, James Salinger and Gene McClary: Salinger (Nelson) is the rapacious one, and McClary (Jones) – wearing a look of permanent dyspepsia – is the conscience; wanna guess which one gets pushed into early retirement? This is writer/director John Wells’ first feature film; he’s been a respected force in television for three decades (China Beach, ER). But the producing credits on his CV have always been more convincing than his writing ones – the turgid direction he pushed on The West Wing when he took over showrunning and writing duties in 2003 flatly undid all the great work he’d done as a producer for that show. The wan, uninvolving The Company Men bears the same hallmarks as Wells’ West Wing flameout: bombastic plot swerves and overscripted speeches, a fatal inclination toward sentimentality, and an inability to catch a rhythm – to not feel so damn ponderous. Yes, these former company men sigh a lot, occasionally raise their voices, get drunk and throw rocks at corporate HQ, but there’s nothing that feels like real rage, nothing that even remotely approximates the spiritual decimation of a termination.